Clinical and pathogenic significance of S100A4 overexpression in systemic sclerosis

Ann Rheum Dis. 2023 Sep;82(9):1205-1217. doi: 10.1136/ard-2023-223862. Epub 2023 Jul 6.


Objectives: We have studied the damage-associated molecular pattern protein S100A4 as a driver of fibroblast activation in systemic sclerosis (SSc).

Methods: S100A4 protein concentration was measured by ELISA in serum of SSc (n=94) and healthy controls (n=15). Protein expression in skin fibroblast cultures from diffuse cutaneous SSc (SScF, n=6) and healthy controls (normal fibroblasts (NF), n=6) was assessed. Recombinant S100A4 and a high affinity anti-S100A4 neutralising monoclonal antibody (AX-202) were tested on SScF and NF.

Results: Median (range) S100A4 (ng/mL) was higher in serum of SSc (89.9 (15.0-240.0)) than healthy controls (71.4 (7.9-131.8); p=0.027). There was association with SSc-interstitial lung disease (p=0.025, n=55), scleroderma renal crisis (p=0.026, n=4). Median (range) S100A4 (ng/mL) was higher in culture supernatants of SScF (4.19 (0.52-8.42)) than NF controls (0.28 (0.02-3.29); p<0.0001). AX-202 reduced the constitutive profibrotic gene and protein expression phenotype of SScF. Genome-wide RNA sequencing analysis identified an S100A4 activated signature in NF overlapping the hallmark gene expression signature of SScF. Thus, 464 differentially expressed genes (false discovery rate (FDR) <0.001 and fold change (FC) >1.5) induced in NF by S100A4 were also constitutively overexpressed, and downregulated by AX-202, in SScF. Pathway mapping of these S100A4 dependent genes in SSc showed the most significant enriched Kegg pathways (FDR <0.001) were regulation of stem cell pluripotency (4.6-fold) and metabolic pathways (1.9-fold).

Conclusion: Our findings provide compelling evidence for a profibrotic role for S100A4 in SSc and suggest that serum level may be a biomarker of major organ manifestations and disease severity. This study supports examining the therapeutic potential of targeting S100A4 in SSc.

Keywords: autoantibodies; autoimmune diseases; cytokines; fibroblasts; scleroderma, systemic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Scleroderma, Systemic*
  • Skin / pathology